Fall Socially Distant BioBlitz - DFW Urban Ecosystem's Journal

20 September, 2020

Results!!! :)

Results of Fall DFW Socially Distant BioBlitz, September 6 - 12
Zoom presentation on Friday, September 25 (details below)

On Saturday, August 29, Dallas had a high temp of 106… Summer was still upon us, and I was getting a bit worried about a bioblitz! A few days later, a cool front and a bit of rain came through and nature responded. It was a great time to have a socially distant bioblitz! A crazy amount of folks participated in this bioblitz from Sunday, September 6 through Saturday, September 12. During this time, around 35,000 observations of 2700 species were made by 1136 citizen scientists. https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fall-socially-distant-bioblitz-dfw-urban-ecosystem Just to put this in perspective, in 2019 at the same time, 3600 observations of 960 species were made by 600 citizen scientists… https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2019-09-06&d2=2019-09-12&place_id=57484&subview=grid If you’re not good with numbers, that’s a MASSIVE increase!

All observations were automatically added to an umbrella project that was divided into 6 subprojects. https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fall-socially-distant-bioblitz-dfw-urban-ecosystem Each subproject was bounded by the counties served by one of the 6 chapters of the Texas Master Naturalists. There was a sprinkling of competition involved with this bioblitz too. If you’re curious, the Elm Fork chapter had the most observations followed by the Cross Timbers and Blackland Prairie chapters. The Elm Fork chapter also observed the most species, followed by the Cross Timbers and North Texas chapters. The North Texas chapter had the most participants, followed by the Cross Timbers and Elm Fork chapters. Both the Indian Trails and Rio Brazos chapters had over 1000 observations of over 400 species as well! The amount of data that came out of each area was simply wonderful.

Not every participant had to be a master naturalist. The contest was open to all citizen scientists and curious naturalists, so if someone made an observation on iNaturalist during this time and in the area, it was added to the umbrella project and specific subproject. As a matter of fact, some of the biggest observers aren’t officially master naturalists. Instead, we were all citizen scientists documenting the biodiversity in the urban ecosystem. It was amazing to see some of the top observers go “all out” during this week too. Here are the top 500: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fall-socially-distant-bioblitz-dfw-urban-ecosystem?tab=observers The top ten observers all documented over 300 species! This is tremendous. Way to go!

There were a few things that I tried to watch closely during this bioblitz. Honestly, it was pretty hard to keep up! Observations came in frequently, so I didn’t get the opportunity to look at all 35,000 (yet)… Nonetheless, I hoped to see some interesting observations, new documentations for certain areas, and of course, participation. Check, check, and definitely check!

Each day there was a challenge to motivate participants to look for behaviors, multiple species, reproductive structures of plants, and I did sneak in a little bit of a required action (oh, how I enjoyed seeing roots of invasive plants!). The daily challenges were actually completed by many folks! Here are some of the completions (hard to include all of these – so here are a few of the ones that caught my eye):

On Sunday, the challenge was to watch a spider catch prey. Ideally, you spent a bit of time watching the behavior of various spiders – some are active hunters (jumping spiders) whereas others are more passive and patient hunters (orb weavers).

Spider with prey: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58779450
Spider with spider prey: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58801046
52 species of spiders were observed on just this one day!

On Monday, I was hoping to see some roots of invasive plants! As expected, to see the roots of plants, you have to yank it up! I save the term “invasive” for the non-native and aggressive plants. Just because a plant is “weedy” doesn’t mean it’s non-native. Ragweed is native!
Invasive species roots:
Crabweed – in the same family as mulberries: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58860953
Privet roots – best time to yank up privet is after a rain!


Tuesday was all about botanical terminology! Dioecious plants are plants that have just one kind of flower – either male or female. Here are some examples:
Juniperus: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58991041
Osage orange female: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59005608
I also asked for a monoecious plant with imperfect flowers. These plants have both male and female flowers, but they’re separate. Here are a few examples:
Ragweed: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58994635
Cocklebur: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58996803

Getting up a bit early was the goal on Wednesday. I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few observations come in around 6:45 – 7:00 AM!

Sunrise observation of snail: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59033055
Sunrise observation of still sleeping lizard: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59034139
Sunrise moths:

Thursday came with a bit of rain, so the challenge was a bit more “challenging!” Frogs and toads were the target organisms with bonus points on the tadpoles. The spots that I had seen tadpoles before were now more “flowing streams” instead of little puddles! Nonetheless, quite a few toads and frogs were documented:
Gulf coast toads can get in ground pipes/boxes! https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59177846
Tadpoles: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59177167
6 species of frogs/toads observed today: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?on=2020-09-10&place_id=any&project_id=fall-socially-distant-bioblitz-dfw-urban-ecosystem&subview=grid&taxon_id=20979&verifiable=any&view=species

Friday was all about pollination! We are fortunate to have quite a few species that pollinate here in DFW. Some are native and some are introduced. Both are practicing a tremendous service to the propagation of plants.
Non-native bee: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59264837
Natives like Megachile: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59287607
70 species of bees, wasps, and ants (Hymenoptera) were documented on this one day in the project: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?on=2020-09-11&place_id=any&project_id=fall-socially-distant-bioblitz-dfw-urban-ecosystem&subview=grid&taxon_id=47201&verifiable=any&view=species

Finding a bird nest out of season can be a challenge. On the last day of the bioblitz, that was the task. It was neat to see some old bird nests recorded.

Vireo: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59395115
Some birds will even use plastic: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59383473

Another fairly interesting part of a large project like this is the new documentations for the area. Sometimes, it’s something like a county record, but in these cases, it was a new record for the entire DFW metroplex!

New dragonfly species for DFW! https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59409382
New weevil for DFW: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59534632
Another new beetle for DFW: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59646372
New springtail for DFW: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59417860
New tiger beetle for DFW: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59457133
Purple loosestrife only DFW location: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58992510
New weevil – only seen in the Lower Rio Grande Valley before: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58896569

These were a couple of state records on iNaturalist!
New beetle on iNat for Texas: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59637719
Another new springtail for Texas: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59365017

There were so many interesting observations… It’s hard to narrow it down to just a few… Nonetheless, here are some of the neat ones that were observed:

Migrating warblers were moving through the metroplex during this week as well. Here are a few observations of those birds.
Black and White: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59008605
Canada warbler: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59009513
Mourning warbler: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58918343
Yellow warbler: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58932607

Window strike sora: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59091413

Bobcat: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59271917
Hall’s Dalea: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59409010
Fluted bird’s nest fungus: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58799437
Roadkill timber rattlesnake: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/58998521
Slime mold ID’ed by mycologist from Australia: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59405666

One of the most valuable things that people did was put on identifications for observations. I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough… When you add an ID or a comment on an observation, this engages the observer and starts up a positive feedback loop. It can be the kind of encouragement that a new (or regular) citizen scientist needs to keep him/her engaged and involved. There is fear of being wrong when we ID, so I tell others that when we add an ID, it’s starting a conversation. “I think it may be this species…” or “it’s a type of this kind of organism…” is a crucial step to learning for both the observer and identifier. Being wrong is an ok part of this process too!

I strongly encourage you to try to ID observations for others. It’s a wonderful chance to learn and engage new and regular citizen scientists. It starts a positive feedback loop that is rewarding to both the observer and identifier. Here is the link for ID’ing recent observations in DFW: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?quality_grade=needs_id%2Cresearch&place_id=57484

Around 900 other naturalists from around the world ID’ed observations made in this project: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fall-socially-distant-bioblitz-dfw-urban-ecosystem?tab=identifiers
Here are some of the experts that chimed in on observations:

Lupoli Roland – French entomologist specializing in stink bugs
Roman Romanov – Russian botanist specializing in aquatic plants
Michal Sloviak – Slovakian mammologist specializing in carnivores
Dan Kluza – New Zealand invasive species biologist specializing in moths
Matthew Pintar – Florida ecologist specializing in aquatic beetles
Radek Walkowiak – Polish botanist specializing in ferns
Nick Block – Prof of biology at Stonehill College, MA specializing in Lepidoptera
Susan Hewitt – Malacologist New York specializing in snails and bivalves
Chris Cohen – PhD East Carolina University specializing in robber flies
Clint Perkins – Texas Tech Mammalogist
Blaine Mathison – Parasitologist specializing in click beetles
Barbara Wilson – botanist in Oregon specializing in sedges

I like to spend a bit of time on relevancy of doing something like this. What does 35,000 observations of bugs, birds, and bees mean and why should we care?

First and foremost, this bioblitz was about engagement. To make an observation, you have to be engaged with nature, even if just for a moment. You have to be in the presence of that plant or bird or beetle to take a photo or sound recording. We all need to do this more often! The second part of engagement is that with the naturalist community. As you upload an observation to iNaturalist, you share that with other naturalists around the world and start a conversation. Each data point (observation) provides evidence that the organism existed in space and in time. Who knows what questions the collection of data will address?!? There is scientific merit in this engagement.

Secondly, iNaturalist is a learning tool. What’s in a name? Well, when you learn a name of an organism, you get the password to learning more about it. It’s like getting the key into the room of knowledge. Fortunately for us in the DFW metroplex, we have mansions of rooms of knowledge – there is a tremendous amount of biodiversity here! I encourage you to go through the ‘digital field guide’ of species here in DFW. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=57484&view=species This is filterable, so you can learn the names of the birds (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=57484&taxon_id=3&view=species), beetles (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=57484&taxon_id=47208&view=species), bees (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=57484&taxon_id=630955&view=species), beans (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=57484&taxon_id=47122&view=species)... and more! You could spend several lifetimes studying just the biodiversity in the urban ecosystem of DFW. One of the first steps of appreciation is learning the names of our natural neighbors.

Finally, for me, iNaturalist is a tool of policy change. After a successful bioblitz like this, we have more evidence of not just the biodiversity here but also the growing number of naturalists that seek out this biodiversity. As public land managers recognize this, real changes can and do happen! This collection of data points and engagement of naturalists is used as a tool of meaningful change. As I talk to a city council, park board, or anyone interested, I bring this with me. It’s meaningful.

On Friday, September 25th from 7 to 8 pm, we’ll have a zoom presentation on exploring the bioblitz results, addressing a few commonly asked questions, and shout out to some of the top observers and ID’ers!

It will also be recorded, so if you don’t get a chance to watch in person, the NTMN chapter will post it on vimeo with the password (big time thanks to the NTMN team, especially Bruce Stewart!).

Most of all, thanks so much for participating. It is a challenging time right now, so it’s vital for all of us to engage with what makes us happy (and sane!) – nature. Please spend some time engaging with nature – it’s good for you.

Sam Kieschnick
Urban Wildlife Biologist, DFW
Texas Parks and Wildlife
Sambiology on iNaturalist
214 215 5605

Posted on 20 September, 2020 17:18 by sambiology sambiology | 6 comments | Leave a comment

18 September, 2020

Still working on report! Will post tomorrow!

Hey all, just FYI -- I'm still working on a report of the project. I will hopefully have it by tomorrow and will post here and on each subproject.

Stay tuned!

And seriously, great job, all!

Posted on 18 September, 2020 17:03 by sambiology sambiology | 2 comments | Leave a comment

14 September, 2020

WOW. That's a lot of observations. :)

Holy moly -- it is wonderful to see just how many observations have been added to the project so far!

If you took photos during the event, be sure to have them uploaded before the 18th so that they make it to a little report I'm putting together.

One of the most important things that we need is identifications. If you're able to put on some ID's, that's crazy helpful. Here is the shortcut for the observations that need some ID guidance:

You can filter this by taxon or by county or by date or whatever.

If you want to add in ID's on observations that have been verified already, here's that link:
Mistakes happen, so it's always useful to have extra eyes on observations.

On either Friday or Saturday, I'll put together a report, comment on some interesting observations that I noticed, and give some shout outs to folks that have gone all out (LOTS of people did!).

Again, I am most hopeful that you took the time to engage with nature. iNaturalist is a tool of engagement among many other things.

Posted on 14 September, 2020 20:38 by sambiology sambiology | 1 comment | Leave a comment

11 September, 2020

Major success so far!!! Saturday is the final day!

Hey all -- huge crazy big success of a bioblitz so far. Amazing numbers!

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the last day of data collection, and then we'll have until next week Friday (18 Sep) to have stuff uploaded and ID'ed as far as we can.

Speaking of which, if you've got some spare time, ID'ing is one of the most helpful things that you can do for the participants of the bioblitz. Here's the link for the observations that need ID's from the umbrella project:


Thanks! :)

Posted on 11 September, 2020 17:25 by sambiology sambiology | 0 comments | Leave a comment

04 September, 2020

Daily Challenges!

Here are the challenges -- do you think you can get them all?!?

Sunday, 6 Sep
Spider with prey (one observation for spider, one observation for prey)
- You need to spend some time with a spider today!
*sub challenge: how many different species of spiders can you document today?

Monday, 7 Sep
Invasive plant with observation next to pulled-up plant!
- yank up an invasive plant for today’s observation – roots required!
*sub challenge: who can observe the biggest mound of pulled up invasive plants?!?

Tuesday, 8 Sep
A female plant (plant with only female flowers/fruits)
- some plants are dioecious – there are males and females – try to find a female
*sub challenge: can you document a monoecous plant with flowers that are “imperfect?”

Wednesday, 9 Sep
An observation made at sunrise
- wake up with the sun!
*sub challenge: observe a moth (or several!) at sunrise.

Thursday, 10 Sep
Frog or toad
- may have to get close to some water to find this one
*sub challenge: observe a tadpole too.

Friday, 11 Sep
Pollinators (one native to Texas, one not native to Texas)
- one observation of a native pollinator and one observation of a non-native pollinator – bonus points to get them in the act of pollinating.
*sub challenge: document some pollinators that have the color green.

Saturday, 12 Sep
Bird nest
- hope you kept an eye out all week for this one! Try to observe it today.
*sub challenge: try to identify some of the plants used to make the bird nest.

Posted on 04 September, 2020 18:37 by sambiology sambiology | 7 comments | Leave a comment

26 August, 2020

Presentation on BioBlitz participation

Hey all,

Just in case you missed it, here is the 1.5 hour presentation on the bioblitz and participation:
The password is bioblitz (all lowercase, all one word).

Posted on 26 August, 2020 15:15 by sambiology sambiology | 0 comments | Leave a comment

BioBlitz RULZ! :)

Here are the general "rules" for the bioblitz:

  1. Observations must be made between September 6 - 12.

    So, one second after midnight on Sept 6 to one second before midnight on Sep 12... Sunday - Saturday. 7 days of bioblitzing!
  2. Observations must be made within these DFW counties:

    Wise, Denton, Cooke, Collin, Hunt, Dallas, Rockwall, Kaufman, Tarrant, Parker, Hood, Johnson, Somervell, Ellis, and Navarro. Where you make the observation will determine which project it's added to. Although, ALL observations are added to this umbrella project, so they all count.
  3. Observations must be of wild (not cultivated or captive) organisms.

    So, no captive pets or cultivated plants will count. It's ok to observe these, but recognize that the project won't catch them.
  4. Observations need to have a photo or sound.

    Without these, the observation just stays casual grade. We'd like to see some sort of evidence of your observation.
  5. Observations need to be uploaded before the 18th.

    Try your best to get the uploaded sooner! The sooner you get your uploaded, the more likely they'll be ID'ed for the results given on the 18th.
  6. ID as many of the observations as you can!

    Start with ID'ing your own observations, and then, please, help out others with their observations. You learn a lot in the process!
  7. No need to join any project or be a master naturalist or anything like that.

    Observations that meet the above categories will automatically be added to these projects. :) I really hope that Master Naturalists will curate a lot of the observations made by all though.
  8. Respect points for the daily challenges!

    Each day, there will be a daily challenge of something to observe. Try to get these -- Sam will respect you. :)
  9. Tell others about this!

    The more engagement, the more folks involved, the more folks engaging with nature. That's a big deal. Also, at the end of this, Sam will write up a detailed report of the relevancy of this sort of event as the results are announced on Sep 18th.
  10. You MUST have FUN.

    Required. Demanded. Spend time engaging with nature during this time!
Posted on 26 August, 2020 00:30 by sambiology sambiology | 2 comments | Leave a comment

31 July, 2020

DFW competition -- what part of the metroplex has the most?!? September 6 - 12!

Like many of you, I've missed out on doing some public bioblitzes all this year. It is what it is. Nonetheless, nature's still out there, just waiting for us to appreciate it and document it. I hope you all have taken some time to escape outside to look for bugs and birds and whatnot.

Well, in the meantime, let's have a little fun competition! This is sorta like a local scale city nature challenge -- only just in the DFW area! What area of DFW can document the most species, make the most observations, and have the most engagement?!?

First of all, you don't have to be a master naturalist to participate! You don't have to join any projects. This umbrella project is composed of the 6 master naturalist chapter areas. Observations made in these areas are automatically added to both that project and this umbrella project. Again, you don't have to be a master naturalist to participate, but if you are a master naturalist, hopefully you can get some volunteer service time for your participation.

So, observations of wild organisms made between September 6 and 12th will count. At the end of this time, I'll put together a little report and will highlight some of the cool finds. Also, each day there will be a "daily challenge" -- I've got a list of 7 things to look for, and you get extra respect points for documenting the daily challenge organism/interaction. :) Respect points are worth their weight in gold!

Hope you will participate! And which area do you think would have the most observations/species/participants?!? :)

Posted on 31 July, 2020 17:59 by sambiology sambiology | 51 comments | Leave a comment